Djamaa el Djazaair - A Mosque With a Shadow


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Djamaa el Djazair, also known as the Great Mosque of Algiers, is a mosque in Algiers, Algeria. It houses the world's tallest minaret and is the third-largest mosque in the world after the Great Mosque of Mecca and Al-Masjid an-Nabawi of Medina in Saudi Arabia.


Boasting a 265m tall minaret, which makes it the tallest building in Africa. It also houses an observation deck atop the minaret, which has 37 floors. The mosque’s complex includes a Koranic school, a library, a restaurant, an amphitheater, along with a research center dedicated to the history of Algeria.


The mosque is designed to withstand an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 and the structure has been specially processed to resist corrosion. The main prayer hall has 618 octagonal columns serving as support pillars and 6km of calligraphic writing engraved with a laser system. The dome of the prayer hall has a diameter of 50m and rises to a height of 70m.


The mosque sits on a site covering 400,000m2 and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The prayer hall has a capacity of 37,000 worshippers, while the structure including the compound can house up to 120,000 worshippers and has parking space for 7,000 cars.


The mosque faced construction delays owing to budgetary concerns due to the falling prices of oil. The construction of the mosque was seen by many to serve as a symbol of the reign of long-serving president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

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"There are mosques every 500 meters in this country, we didn't need that," said an exasperated 68-year-old named Zhora.


Algeria, Africa's largest country, has more than 20,000 mosques. One of them, a small, immaculate neighbourhood mosque, sits about 100 metres behind the lavish structure in a residential district where laundry dries on the balconies of buildings dotted with satellite dishes.


A 70-year-old resident sitting on the sidewalk recounted witnessing the impressive dome grow day by day from his window. "It's true, it's a masterpiece, but... what we need are hospitals," he said.


Algeria, with 40 million inhabitants, does slightly better than Morocco in terms of hospital beds per inhabitant, and somewhat worse than Tunisia, according to the WHO. The National Agency for Health Institutions in 2015 noted that Algeria's university hospitals date to colonial times and are "mostly a century old". Health workers' unions regularly denounce the lack of medical staff and equipment in public hospitals.


"I have nothing against this mosque, but these billions could have been used to improve a health system that really needs it," said Imene, a 26-year-old doctor.


On social networks, petitions have been launched to transform the Great Mosque into "Algeria's largest hospital".


42-year-old shop owner Radia commented on the unfinished dream of Bouteflika, who has rarely been seen in public following a stroke in 2013 that affected his speech and left him wheelchair-bound. "Bouteflika made this great mosque for himself, and now he won't even be able to go and pray in it," she said.

(Credit : cscec.dz)


To its critics, the mosque is a vanity project, and a symbol of the megalomania of former autocrat Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced out in April last year after mass street protests against his two-decade-long rule.


Sources : Wikipedia, middle-east-online.com, africanews.com

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